Sooner or later, anyone who writes Science Fiction
has to write a bar story.
Here’s Tuit’s Time Out Bar,
with a big nod to Spider Robinson.
I’m a salesman for a pharmaceutical company. Single, I travel a lot and live mostly in hotels. It’s a lifestyle that doesn’t lend itself to having hobbies like gardening or stamp collecting; so, I read a lot and I write a bit. Books and paper are portable and I couldn’t do my job without a laptop and printer. I guess I’m what they mean by the term “Road Warrior”.
A good who-done-it will definitely hold my attention but I read and write mostly Sci-Fi. I’d like to believe I’m not too bad a story teller, I can hold my own at jokes and bar stories at least. I get plenty of material, traveling as I do and more than enough practice in the bars of convention centers, hotels and airports.
It was an airport night, Denver. Seated on barstools, feet on the rail and leaning on the bar, we were nursing our drinks and staring hard at the colorful display of mirror backed, under lit bottles on the back bar. I was headed to St. Louis; he to Omaha and due to the weather, neither of us was going anywhere this snowy night. The place was jam packed and if you didn’t have a seat, you weren’t going to get one until someone left to go sleep on the terminal floor. The seats and benches out there had long since been filled.
The woman on my left was deeply engrossed in conversation with the young girl next to her and this guy to my right turned out to be a retired rancher from New Mexico. We started talking about the lousy weather and that led to a few jokes and a yarn or two. I enjoyed the stories he told. He had a great imagination and knew how to spin a tale. He’d traveled as a rodeo cowboy when he was young and as a stock breeder until he’d quit ranching. He was impressed by the sheer volume of my travel but he had done plenty of his own.
We entertained each other through several rounds. The crowd thinned a bit and our conversation, such as it had been, gradually dried up to remembrances of more interesting bars and events than this particular refuge for the time bound traveler. We ordered a fresh round; each of us made a visit to the john while the other guarded our seats and drinks from the ever depleting but still predatory horde wondering what to do with their night. We both choose to comb our hair slap water on our face and accomplish a minor revival of consciousness, considering the situation.
When we both got re-settled, we continued reminiscing about the bars of our travels; He told about a bar in Grand Island, Nebraska full of stuffed animals and I followed with one in Evergreen, Colorado full of stuffed shirts.
We were both getting a little soused and I thought maybe that’s what loosened him up. I learned later that hadn’t been what it was. We had sort of drifted off into our personal reveries for a moment and then he got an odd look on his face, reached into his coat pocket for something, thought better of it and returned his hand, empty, to its resting place on the bar. Turning more towards me, leaning on one elbow, he quietly said, “You ever here of a place called Tuit’s?”
“No,” I said, vaguely searching my memory for the name, “can’t dredge that one up from anywhere. ‘Two Wits’?”
“No, it’s Tu…its, but only one word. You know what a Round Tuit is?”
“Yeah, sure, one of those wooden nickels they give out in bars and tourist traps. They ask, “When are you coming in?”, and you say, “When I get around to it!”, so they give you one of those wooden deals, a round tuit, good for a free drink or a train whistle or something, right?”
“Sure, sure, that’s what everybody thinks of, when they hear ‘a round tuit’, but where did it come from?”
“It’s a joke, an urban legend; it’s got to be old! You know, it’s like… like a Jungian Archetype it appears in lots of places. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Romans had them.”
“They did, I know they did, but you ever see a real one?”
“Hell, I don’t know? None of ‘em are real,” I offered, “or maybe they’re all real! I’ve had a bunch of the silly things at one time or another. I think the bars order that kind of junk from some specialty company, don’t they? They get their name imprinted and give the things away to draw customers.”
“Not important,” he said, “most people never heard of it. I ain’t surprised. Just thought you seemed like a fella who might know already.”
“Know what, about that bar? What do you mean; a real one?”
“About Tuit’s and the coins.”
“No,” I said, “I never heard of a bar named Tuit’s. What, some bar gives out coins for round tuits? That what you mean?”
“Not this bar, partner! They don’t give ‘em to you. Somebody has to give you one; someone who’s already got one and then gets a signal that they oughta give one to you.”
“Whoa,” I said, “What kind of a signal?”
“Well, it’s like you have this coin, then you meet somebody and then you have two. It means you’re supposed to give them one.”
“Oh come on, you’re putting me on. How in hell can one coin make two? What kind of a scam is this?”